Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Julie Knits: Sumner Beanie

I realize it's been awhile since I posted about my knitting.  Sometimes it's because I am making a sweater and I am a leisurely knitter.  A sweater that takes some knitters a month or two, can easily take me six months.  It's cool.   Knitting is about the process for me, moreso than the product.

But this time, it took so long because I had to make three hats before I figured out the right way to make a hat that was perfect for me.

This cool hat is called Sumner.  The pattern on Ravelry is here. 

The first one I made was WAY too small.  It was baby size, really.  (But I didn't know!  I thought it might stretch after blocking.)  Anyway - it was so small I sent it to the tiniest person in my family, my cousin's little girl.  I'm told she looks cute in it.

Then I bought some black yarn and made one for Magoo.  I made a much larger size, and it fits him fine, but it was still a little small for me.

Then I bought this lovely green year (madelinetosh merino light in Grove) and repeated a section in the pattern to give me another inch in the crown of the beanie and PERFECTO!  Fits as though it was made for me - which, of course, it was!

What will I knit now?  Hmmmm?

Hey - tomorrow is THANKSGIVING!  I hope all of you have a safe and lovely holiday with people that you are thankful for!

Best wishes,

Monday, November 25, 2013

Picture Book Workshop #40: Wordless Picture Books

I have been wanting to "write" a wordless picture book for awhile.  Every time I try, I rarely get beyond 3 or 4 illustrations, though.  I seem to have some kind of block that won't let me dive straight into the sketchbook without having spent some time at the computer hashing things out.

Well, I got an idea for a wordless picture book a few weeks ago, and I finally sat down to type out all the scenes.  Maybe with a solid outline in hand, I'll get further with this project.

But, because I'm not used to this kind of thing, I went into reserach mode and took a look at some other wordless picture books and how they break down the action and art.

One would expect gorgeous, 2-page spreads like these...

From TUESDAY by David Weisner

From CHALK by Bill Thompson

But I was more curious how they showed a character progressing through a scene.

In Jerry Pinkney's THE LION AND THE MOUSE, he uses each page as a panel to show the progression of the mouse escaping an owl.

This gives each illustration a lot of space, and because you see the mouse going into the log in illo #1 and leaving the log in illo #2, it's very clear what's happening.  It's important to note that Mr. Pinkney balances a full page illustration with an illo with a large, white border.  The white space separates the scenes and allows the eye to rest a bit, since the illustrations are very complex and detailed.

In David Weisner's FLOTSAM, he squeezes 13 panels into one page to show a boy dropping off film to be developed.

I think this is successful in it's clarity (and the artistic technique is without flaw) but, to me, this feels a little busy.  Part of that is from having so many panels, and part of it is because the panels vary in size.

I prefer the panels in Barbara Lehman's RAINSTORM.

Six panels show a boy following a secret passage.  Because the panels are all the same size and because there is nice, calming white space between them, I find this page more successful in telling a clearer story, especially for a younger audience.  It's just more visually appealing to me as well.

I also really like how she balanced the six panels of activity with a simple, sparse image of the boy discovering the hidden passage.

It's almost as if there's a pause in time as the boy lifts the lid, then she speeds things up to show his journey.  LOVE IT!

A BALL FOR DAISY by Chris Raschka is all about the unbridled energy of a puppy.  He also does "panels" to show a characters progression within a scene, but there are no black-line borders.

The energy is there in the loose watercolor, but the scenes are clear because the couch and ball don't move. 

This scene (later in the book) is a little more complex because everything in each panel is moving.

Daisy is moving.  The brown dog is moving.  The ball is moving.

It's clear what's happening to me, but the simple fact that the ball is almost out of the panel in #1, then moves backwards to the in the middle in #2 is a little jarring.  This might confuse a younger reader.

In general, you want your action to move left-to-right. 

That said,  I want to make clear that my goal is not to pick apart and criticize these books, but rather to see what appeals to me as a story-teller.  What do I like?  What's closest to my organic style?  And by looking at all these options and analyzing them, it helps me build my story better.

All of these books are filled with GORGEOUS illustrations and fabulously inventive stories.  And the real beauty of a wordless picture book, is you don't have to be able to read to enjoy them.  A two-year old can sit down and follow the story, or just lose themselves in the art.

In other news, it's almost time for the next LITWIT'S LOG!   If you'd like to sign up for the newsletter that I write with my three other critique partners (wonder writers all), then click here and fill out the form.

The winter newsletter should be out sometime next week!

Thanks for stopping in and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 22, 2013

What's Happening: Friday

Happy Friday everyone!  Lots going on - thought I'd share.

For starters, I am now happily married to an app developer!  Mike's first app, KingHunt, is available on the Firefox Marketplace.  WooHoo!

It's a chess app.  It's free.  If you have a FirefoxOS phone and you love chess, check it out!

It was sort of amazing to watch it develop.  There's lots of trial and error, finding bugs and fixing them.  My hubs is a pretty smart guy and when he does a job, he does it right.  So I'm sure it's cool.

That said, I don't play chess, so it might stink.  (Kidding, honey!  I'm kidding!)


One of the coolest gifts I got for my birthday was an underwater casing for my camera.  And here I was, some chump that thought you needed a whole new camera to go underwater.  Not so!  I just pop this clear, plastic casing on my digital camera and BOOM - I'm an underwater photographer!

Of course, it helps if you belong to an indoor pool and it's lightly attended on Wednesday afternoons.  It also helps to have a willing model.  Magoo came through big time!

I have to confess it was a little too fun.  I really didn't do much of a workout that day.  But my lungs did!

Maybe someday I'll go somewhere where there's tropical fish!  Is it wrong to plan a vacation around an underwater camera casing?  Nah!


Mike is getting over a huge cold.  It's been a bummer.  Last night Magoo started sniffling and I have to confess that my through felt a wee bit scratchy.  Well, Thanksgiving is next week so I have a zero tolerance policy for illness in my body this week.  I'm going into lock-down mode.   No crappy food.  (Sorry, chocolate and tortilla chips.)  No public school volunteering.  (Sorry library books, shelve thy-selves.) No heavy workouts.  (Sorry Jillian Michael's.  You're going to have to Shred It yourself.)
It's tea and Vitamin C and relaxation for me.

Also Lysol and washing all the bedding.


I'm seeing CATCHING FIRE tonight!  Can't wait!


With that - I will sign off and hope that you all have a happy and healthy weekend!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Picture Book Workshop #39: Giving and Receiving Advice

This weekend, at Open Studio Hartford, I was approached twice by people who had aspirations of publishing children's books.

This is not rare or irritating.  I'm totally cool with people approaching me with inquiries.  But sometimes - sometimes - these people are not really all that serious about the craft of writing or the business of publishing.  Sometimes, they just want a secret pass to fame & fortune.

If you are a published writer, you know the secret as well as I do.  It's called busting your butt. 

And if you are a writer who wants to be published, there, I just spilled the beans.

I usually tell people that they need to buy ONE BOOK on writing and publishing for children, preferably something current that might discuss the ins and out of self-publishing as well as traditional publishing.  They need to read THE WHOLE BOOK cover-to-cover, then they'll have a much better grasp of how to proceed.

People who are serious about becoming writers will usually stop there.  They understand that they have to educate themselves.  Maybe they have a follow-up question about which books I have read or SCBWI or how to get involved in a critique group, or something that shows they have an idea of what's involved.

But some people - some people - really just want me to boil down all my knowledge and experience into 5 Easy Steps to Becoming a Children's Book Author.  And some people - some people - want me to read their work, critique it (but not really), pass it along to my agent, and do all the work for them.

When this happens, I try to be as polite and professional as I can.  I restate my earlier advice of getting a book on writing, suggest they look into finding a critique group (maybe through their local library) and offer my editing services for a fee.

If you ARE one of these people, just know that a lot of work goes into writing any kind of book.  In addition to writing, authors have to constantly think about marketing, social media, author appearances.  We are crazy busy - and almost everyone I know has kids, a spouse, a home, medical issues, a grocery list, three piles of laundry, bills to pay, leaves to rake, and a bunch of other stuff to deal with.  Unless the author you are requesting a free critique from is a dear friend whom you've helped out a number of times, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not ask for free services.

I, for one, hope that everyone who wants to write for children is able to do so.  Maybe you want to make it your career and put the work in and get published and win awards.  Maybe you self-publish 100 copies and sell them locally.  Whatever it is, I want you to succeed.  But you have to do the work.  I have my own work to do.

And I'm off to do it now!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Scenes from Open Studio Hartford

Hi all - I have a few minutes between pancake breakfast and Magoo's swim meet to post some Open Studio pics.

(Above)  Me and my art buddy, Angela Shenk.

(Below)  The gallery on the first floor.

Some of my space before the crowds came in.

Some young ladies and I sit on an invisible bench.

Author-extraordinaire (and writer buddy) Ammi-Joan Paquette was in town, so she stopped by.

There was even a cheetah woman.  Why?  It's one of the mysteries of Open Studio!!!

Open Studio is open today too.  11 - 5pm.  555 Asylum St, Hartford.
I'm in the third floor hallway!
Stop by if you're in the area and you love art shows!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Magoo's Arcade

In fifth grade, on Fridays, the kids are allowed to open businesses.  They had to write up a business license and get approved and everything.  Most kids are doing some kind of shop: selling pencils, erasers, rainbow loom bracelets, etc.  We already had this carnival plinko game from a birthday party, so Magoo opened an arcade.

For $5  (classroom currency) students get three discs to drop onto the board.  Each disc lands in a number. Then Magoo adds up all their points.  If they get 7 points of higher, they win a prize.

The prizes are keychains - or as Magoo calls them "tokens."

I found a FABULOUS product - inkjet Shrinky Dinks!  Magoo makes a design (below) and then he scans it into the computer.  I help a bit with the layout, but then Magoo colors it in on Photoshop.

We do four tokens per batch, so kids can come back and try to win different tokens.

So far, his business has done well and the kids have really liked the tokens.  Magoo is very excited and is getting into the design aspect of making his prizes.  He's also taking requests.  The classroom fish, Frisbee, just passed away and a girl suggested he make a Frisbee token.

This has been a really great project for Magoo.  He's learning about running a business, marketing, design, Photoshop, and paying attention to what his customers like and don't like.

It'd be nice if the classroom currency was able to help chip in for Shrinky Dinks, but I don't mind.  The money is well worth it to see his enthusiasm for this classroom project.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Open Studio Hartford is THIS weekend.  I've spent a decent amount of time this week going through
my checklist; making sure I have nails, extension cords, cash, snacks.  Today, I folded plastic bags to bring.  There's lots of nitty-gritty.

Want to see my visual checklist?

So, as you can see, apart from the art, there's a ton of little things I have to remember and gather.

I even whipped up two new pieces of art.

Glasses                                                  Green Garden

It's not unusual for me to have a few last minute additions as I look at my collection and decide if certain things need companion pieces. 

I set up on Friday and Saturday and Sunday it's faster pussycat, sell, sell.

If you're going to be in the Hartford area this weekend, it really is a fun event.  LOTS of artists.  LOTS of different types of arts and crafts.  Come on down!

(I'll be in the 3rd floor hallway at Artspace, 555 Asylum Ave, Hartford.)